King–Crane Commission (1919)

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A U.S. commission of inquiry sent to Syria and Palestine in 1919 to investigate the wishes of the populace regarding the political future of the territories.

U.S. president Woodrow Wilson opposed British and French plans to annex territories conquered from the Ottomans during World War I. The proposed League of Nations provided a formula, the mandate system, that would allow these territories to be taken over temporarily, until they were guided to self-determination, by the power to whom the mandate was awarded. The covenant of the league stipulated that "the wishes of these communities must be a principal consideration in the selection of a mandatory power." At the Council of Four, the United States proposed an Allied commission consisting of representatives from France, Great Britain, Italy, and the United States to ascertain the wishes of the inhabitants of Syria, Palestine, and Iraq. The British and French, at odds with each other and interested in dividing up the spoils of war, declined to join. President Wilson then sent two U.S. representatives, Henry C. King and Charles R. Crane, to interview Syrians and Lebanese regarding Syria and Palestinians and Jews regarding Palestine. The two envoys spent June and July 1919 in the region but did not go to Iraq.

The KingCrane Commission found that the inhabitants of Syria and Palestine opposed being placed under a mandate, which they perceived as a disguised form of colonial rule. They wanted independence for a united Greater Syria, including Lebanon and Palestine, with Faisal I ibn Hussein as king; but if they had to accept tutelage, their first choice of guardian would be the United States, which had no history of imperialism, and their second would be Great Britain. The Syrians were opposed to any French rule.

The KingCrane Commission also looked into Zionist claims and demands, which it had initially supported. It concluded that Zionist leaders anticipated "complete dispossession of the present non-Jewish inhabitants of Palestine, by various forms of purchase." General opposition to Zionism led the KingCrane Commission to recommend limiting Jewish immigration, reducing the Zionist program, and giving up on the project of a Jewish commonwealth in Palestine.

The British and French ignored the report and occupied and divided up the territories between themselves. As the British historian Elizabeth Monroe points out: The "report came to nothing because of Wilson's failure to grasp that consultation is a virtue only if the consulting authority has the will and the ability to act on what it finds."

see also crane, charles r.; faisal i ibn hussein; wilson, woodrow.


Hurewitz, J. C., ed. The Middle East and North Africa in World Politics: A Documentary Record, 2d edition, Vol. 2: BritishFrench Supremacy, 19141945. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1979.

Monroe, Elizabeth. Britain's Moment in the Middle East, 19151956. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1963.

Palestine Government. A Survey of Palestine, Prepared in December 1945 and January 1946 for the Information of the AngloAmerican Committee of Inquiry. 2 vols. Jerusalem, 19461947. Reprint, Washington, DC: Institute for Palestine Studies, 1991.

Smith, Charles D. Palestine and the ArabIsraeli Conflict, 4th edition. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2001.

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King–Crane Commission (1919)

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